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Purple Prose Priest Pans Palin By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, October 20, 2008


Chicago Catholic Priest Andrew Greeley gained notoriety during the 1980’s and 90’s for writing racy romance novels.  Supposedly the carnal scenes were metaphors for divine love.  If so, Father Greeley’s fiction was considerably more nuanced than his political commentary.

Palin, McCain Stir Up Storm of Ugly Racism” was the blunt headline of his latest column for The Chicago Sun Times Daily Southtown.  Greeley likened the Republican vice presidential nominee to the prejudiced character in the musical “South Pacific” who shuns her French suitor’s mixed race children.  “Sarah Palin is the Ensign Nellie Forbush,” the polemical priest unsubtly proclaimed.  She’s “an All-American girl [who is] racist, this time a racist with her eye on the White House.”

Greeley’s evidence for Palin’s supposed racism?  “She can stir up crowds to shout ‘Kill him!’ at the mention of the presidential candidate of the other party a couple of weeks before the national election,” the columnist priest claimed.  Already part of the Left’s established lore, the “kill him” quote was allegedly exclaimed from an audience member at a McCain/Palin rally in Pennsylvania.  The story originated with a Scranton newspaper.  But Secret Service who were present reportedly never heard such a shout from among the thousands attending and couldn’t find anyone to corroborate the racist insult.

No matter.  For Father Greeley, the fantasy that Governor Palin is whipping right wing crowds into a racist fury is simply too delectable to question.  But the priest did not accuse just the Alaska governor of bigotry.  New York City restaurant goers are guilty as well.  En route to the theater to see “South Pacific,” Greely overheard diners loudly discuss how they “didn't know enough about Barack Obama to make a decision about him – as if there were not two books about his life.”   Only racism could explain their reluctance about a candidate whom Greely has embraced nearly as ardently as one of the inamorata in his romance potboilers.  “That plea implies that they don't know enough about him to accept his strange name or his skin color,” the priest darkly assumed from his eavesdropping of the brief restaurant chitchat.  “It is, of course, impossible that they could ever know enough. He isn't one of us.”

Evidently even worldly New Yorkers have been seduced by Republican smears.  “It is all part of a plan cooked up by John McCain to turn the major issue in the election from the economy to the character of the Democratic candidate,” Greeley breathlessly revealed.  “Playing the race card explicitly merely guarantees what I have thought from the beginning – racism in this country precludes the possibility of a sepia-colored man becoming president.”  The priest at least found solace knowing that “the last-ditch attack on him guarantees that McCain and Palin will be blamed as the candidates who were content to hear crowds calling for the death of Obama.”

Unlike the fictional Ensign Nellie Forbush, who eventually finds redemption, Palin is probably irretrievably lost to her own hatreds.  “How can she ever justify silence when she heard a cry for lynching?” Greeley querulously wondered.  As for McCain, he is nastier still, Greeley surmised.  The Arizona senator “increasingly acts like an angry, befuddled cancer survivor and treats his rival like a field n----- who is just barely human.”  According to the priest, McCain “does not talk to him, will not shake hands with him, will not even look at him, walks behind him when he is speaking to distract the audience.”  Greeley portrays the Republican as thinking Obama is uppity for presuming to run for President.  And, now, the “furies are gathering,” he melodramatically concluded.

The author of 150 books, and a sociologist as well as a cleric, Greeley’s left-wing politics rely on cartoonish stereotypes and character assassination.  His book of last year, A Stupid, Unjust and Criminal War:  Iraq, 2001-2007, essentially a compilation of his anti-war columns since 9-11, ham-handedly repeated the usual blood for oil canards. “Uncompromising, prophetic, and consistent – a foremost sociologist and America’s most famous priest combines faith and reason to make the record clear,” Greeley’s news release about the book promised.  Indeed, Greeley is “consistent” in chronically rehashing Moveon.org clichés as though they were penetrating spiritual insights.

“Are the American people guilty of a war crime because of the Iraq war?” Greeley asked in a July 2008 column. “Surely the leaders who cooked up the excuses for the war are. So, too, are the national media that allowed patriotism to silence them. So, too, are those ordinary Americans who almost insisted on some kind of patriotic gore.”  But the priest recalled that the American people have a long and infamous record of war lust. “It is not the first patriotic/revenge war on which the country has embarked,” he discerned.  “Remember the Maine. Remember the Alamo. Remember Fort Sumter. Remember Pearl Harbor. The psychology for whipping up revenge in the name of patriotism has always worked. World War II was a just war, but the mix of patriotism and revenge made it easy for the American military to firebomb out of existence 50 Japanese cities and to destroy a couple more with atom bombs.”

Father Greeley exploited the July 4th holiday to emphasize America’s “phony patriotism,” when fireworks and “pompous voices” camouflage our country’s sordid history of oppression against “the aboriginal people, the African slaves, the hated Asians, Jews and Catholics,” accompanied by “the many unjust wars that Americans have fought.”

Presumably because of America’s dastardly history, Greeley is skeptical that Obama or any non-white man could ever attain the presidency, though his own enthusiasm for Obama is nearly cosmological.  “I don't have a candidate,” he coyly penned recently.  “Priests, like columnists, are not supposed to endorse a candidate.  But one of the candidates is from my state and my city, and we shared a pulpit once.  So of course I hope he wins.  But that doesn't mean I endorse him. As I have said repeatedly in this column, I think he will lose because the country is not ready for a smart, attractive, charismatic man – if he has skin slightly darker than a Sicilian's.”

Such grim analysis about America supposedly justifies the priest’s painting Palin and McCain as scheming bigots and their rallies as equivalent to lynch mobs.  Evidently a stranger to the spiritual decorum and discernment that most Christian clergy strive to attain, Greeley’s salacious novels are hopefully more entertaining than his trite newspaper editorials.


Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.


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